Ivorian death ship stopped in Europe

The 'toxic tanker' that left at least eight people dead in the Ivory Coast last week was prevented from leaving an Estonian port after it was found discharging similar pollutants to those that poisoned thousands in Africa.

The Estonian government has now started an investigation into the Dutch-operated ship, the Probo Koala, after a week of much unwanted attention from environmentalists, media and the EU as the ship moored in the Estonian port town of Paldiski.

Most recently, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas visited the Estonian port and called the destruction it had caused in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, "criminal."

On his visit to the Estonian port town, Stavros Dimas said: "Such highly toxic waste should have never left the European Union. European and international laws were broken. There is no excuse for it. What happened was not only unethical in the most profound sense of the word, but it was criminal.

"What is more, I fear that the Probo Koala incident is only the tip of the iceberg," he said, adding that he came to Estonia not only to investigate the matter but also to show his support for the Estonian authorities in prosecuting "the criminals who perpetrated this crime" and to highlight the need to stop the export of toxic waste from the West to the developing world.

The Probo Koala was prevented from leaving port by a Greenpeace ship blocking its way. The group called the investigation launched in Estonia a "victory."

Greenpeace campaigner Helen Perivier said: "The Probo Koala is an international toxic crime scene and needs to be fully investigated to establish the full chain of culpability which led to the tragic deadly events in the Ivory Coast," she said.

"Only through such an investigation can the guilty be brought to justice and the lessons learned in order to prevent this from happening again," she said, welcoming the investigation that had started in Estonia.

The Dutch company which had chartered the Probo Koala said that the "chemical slop" that had caused serious digestive problems for thousands and the deaths of at least eight people in the Ivory Coast was a 'usual' mixture of oil and chemicals discharged from fuel tanks in ships (see related story.

The company, Transfigura, insisted that it had hired a licenced Ivorian company to get rid of the waste in an authorised way.

Goska Romanowicz



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